Spanish unemployment hits 4 million


Spanish unemployment soared to 4 million in the first quarter, almost doubling in a year as the recession destroys jobs more quickly than anywhere else in Europe, official data showed today.

The unemployment rate of 17.4 per cent announced by the National Statistics Institute, up from 13.9 per cent a quarter earlier and already higher than the Bank of Spain's forecast of a maximum of 17.1 per cent for the year will be a major embarrassment for Spain's Socialist government.

The government, which has launched a €70 billion euro fiscal stimulus programme, had said unemployment would peak at 4 million, but, with that figure already reached with the end of the recession seemingly far away, analysts said the peak looks set to be far higher.

The unemployment figure, more than double the European average, comes as prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has indicated he could boost public spending further despite warnings from economists that Spain is reaching its fiscal limits.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Wednesday Spain should be wary of extra fiscal stimulus measures and must curb spending to cut a ballooning budget deficit expected to rise above 8 per cent of gross domestic product this year.